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NOAA 50th Anniversary

This year, NOAA is celebrating 50 years of science, service, and stewardship. (To learn more, visit


The number of coastal sites NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management protects and uses for scientific study and education through the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (covering a total of 1.3 million acres).1

$7.6 Trillion
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The amount coastal communities contribute to the U.S. economy annually—46 percent of the nation’s economic output.2


The number of coastal states participating in the National Coastal Zone Management Program—implemented by the Office for Coastal Management. Between 2012 and 2017, coastal management programs helped 1,165 communities prepare for coastal hazards.2

50 Years of NOAA – Over 200 Years of Oceanic Science

  • 1807 – President Thomas Jefferson founded the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey to provide nautical charts.
  • 1870 – Under President Ulysses S. Grant, the National Weather Service was formed, and one year later, the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries.
  • October 3, 1970 – NOAA is officially founded as a “major element” of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Read the first administrator’s welcome letter.

These were America’s first agencies dedicated to physical science, atmospheric science, and conservation.3

NOAA 50th Anniversary
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Numerous NOAA Achievements

NOAA’s scientists and technology have been making breakthroughs since the agency’s beginnings. These are just some of the ones considered momentous.4

  • Climate model (late 1960s): Enabled scientists to understand for the first time how the ocean and atmosphere interacted with each other to influence climate.
  • Tornado detection and warnings (1970s): Discovered that using Doppler radar to peer into storms allowed meteorologists to more confidently forecast tornados.
  • ECOPATH modeling (1983): Revolutionized scientists’ ability to accurately identify ecological relationships to understand complex marine ecosystems.
  • Large marine ecosystems (mid-1980s): Advanced the concept of understanding how best to manage large ocean areas for sustained biological productivity.
  • Ozone hole (late 1980s): Theorized and confirmed that man-made chlorine and bromine compounds were causing stratospheric ozone depletion.
  • Coronagraph in space (1995): Enabled improved forecasting of threats to electronic communications on Earth from coronal mass ejections on the Sun.
  • Warming of the world ocean (2000 to 2001): Documented for the first time an increase in heat content of the world ocean for the 40-year period between 1955 and 1998.

48 Years of Coastal Zone Management

With the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, Congress officially recognized the importance of the nation’s coasts and Great Lakes, and the associated challenges. The goal continues to be to “preserve, protect, develop, and where possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the nation’s coastal zone.”

NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management implements the Coastal Zone Management Act and all programs it encompasses: the National Coastal Zone Management Program, the National Estuarine Research Reserves, the Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the Digital Coast.1

Over a Decade of Digital Coast

The Digital Coast was developed to meet the unique needs of the coastal management community. The website provides not only coastal data, but also the tools, training, and information needed to make these data truly useful. First released in 2007, the site currently includes 5.5 trillion points of lidar, 37 terabytes of imagery, 800,000 square miles of land cover, over 70 tools with over 140 use examples, and more than 100 training opportunities.

The Digital Coast benefits from the Digital Coast Partnership, a prestigious group of organizations that represent the website’s user groups and provide guidance and user insight.5

Almost 40 Years of Ocean Service

Established in 1982, the National Ocean Service is responsible for a marine transportation and navigation system that annually provides more than $2.4 billion in potential benefits to the U.S. economy. Every year, the National Ocean Service responds to more than 150 oil and chemical spills, manages more than 600,000 square miles of underwater parks, and helps support and sustain a $116-billion ocean tourism economy. There are eight line offices housed within the National Ocean Service, of which the Office for Coastal Management is one.6

150 Years of Weather

Since its establishment in 1870, the National Weather Service has continuously changed the way Americans understand the atmosphere on a daily basis. Each year, the service collects 76 billion weather observations, issues 50,000 forecasts and warnings, and operates 18 weather satellites.7

20 Years of Coral Reef Conservation

NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program—which is jointly overseen by the Office for Coastal Management with a few other NOAA offices—was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act to protect, conserve, and restore the nation’s coral reefs by maintaining healthy ecosystem function. Each year, NOAA supports our coral reefs, which provide $3.4 billion in services, through conservation. These same reefs prevent $94 million in flood damages.8